If you have read any of my training plans then you will know that I’m a big fan of lunges. I find them to be one of the most bang for the buck movements you can do to both strengthen your legs, while building incredible endurance. But one of the first questions I get from people is if they should do walking forward lunges or reverse lunges. So better help them and anyone else asking the same question, I decided to put together a quick guide to Forward vs Reverse Lunges. Including what they have in common, the differences, benefits and disadvantages of each.
Forward vs Reverse Lunges
What the two movements have in common:
A quick overview:
- They are unilateral movements.
- Both primarily target the leg muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
- Building both strength and power.
- Benefits also include improving mobility and coordination.
- Along with increased core strength and stability through your trunk.
- They will both help with mobility and strength.
- Both can be done with bodyweight or with added weight.
Both forward and verse lunges are unilateral body movements, emphasizing focus on one side of the body at a time. This results in increased engagement from your entire core. While each lunging movement will focus on building both leg strength and endurance. Hitting the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Along with strength, lunges are going to improve your mobility and coordination. But building increased strength throughout the full range of the motion. The two exercises can be done with bodyweight or by adding weight through a variety of manners. Including dumbbells, weighted vests, or a barbell.
Why they are different:
- The movement patterns are different, with forward lunges keeping the body position back and over the hips. With a more dynamic landing. Compared to reverse lunges that use the lead leg to control the descent through muscle contraction.
- They target the leg muscles differently, with forward lunges placing more emphasis on the quads. While reverse lunges keep the focus primarily on the glutes and hamstrings.
- Weighted forward lunges will require more core stability and engagement. While reverse lunges will allow you to typically do more weight.
- Forward lunges will transition better to uphill and downhill (strengthening the quads) hiking and running.
- Reverse lunges will transition better to improving your squat.
- Forward lunges are harder on the knees. And reverse lunges are recommended for anyone starting with knee issues.
Key Benefits of Each
Here is a quick overview of the benefits to each movement:
- Targets the quads.
- Will improve downhill running.
- Better for improving balance and stabilization.
- Place more load on the core by keeping your body weight back.
- Improves calve strength through the range of motion.
- Easier on the knees.
- Focuses on the glute and hamstring.
- Increase calf strength for vertical loading.
- Transitions to improve your squats.
- Good for flexibility.
The disadvantages of each and why you might want to avoid one of the other.
- Can place added stress on the knee / is a more impactful movement.
- Requires more balance and stability.
- Won’t typically improve your overall squat number.
- Can be hard to perform with proper form / people tend to lean forward.
Conclusion – Forward vs Reverse Lunges
When comparing forward vs reverse lunges, there are really two great movements. And no matter which one you choose, you are most likely to see performance improvements. That said, there are some reasons you might choose one over the other.
If you are looking to improve your hill climbing and more importantly, your quad strength for pounding out those long downhills while running. Then Forwards lunges are going to target the right muscles and build stability strength throughout the entire movement pattern in your lower body. And for me, when done in large sets, it can be one of the best pure strength endurance exercises a runner can do if they don’t have access to a large mountain.
That said, if you are looking to build pure glute and hamstring strength to improve your squat performance. Or are working with limited space then the reverse lunge is a great option. It’s also the best choice for anyone with knee issues. Since it will take a lot of the dynamics out of the movement.